Is Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood The Current Oscar Frontrunner?


Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio as Cliff Booth and Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Can you believe it’s that time already? The summer movie season is starting to wind down to make way for award season this fall. And from what’s been released so far, 2019’s contenders may be weighing heavily on the movies we’ve yet to see, even though eight months of the year have come and gone.

For the time being, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a no-brainer contender for Best Picture. The Academy loves a film about movie-making and good commentary on the industry – just look at La La Land, Birdman and The Artist. Not to mention Tarantino’s movies are no stranger to the award season… nor the film’s big stars. Has Leonardo DiCaprio legally changed his middle name to Oscar at this point?

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood isn’t just any Tarantino movie, it’s his love letter to Los Angeles during the very time when he grew up. It’s his Roma. It seamlessly recreates Hollywood in 1969 around the happenings of some of the most famous events during the star-studded city’s more somber history.

It features some impressive performances from veterans of Hollywood’s biggest night. Margot Robbie sports a Sharon Tate that brought the late actress’ actual sister to tears (“[Robbie] sounded just like Sharon… I actually got to see my sister again” she said). Leonardo DiCaprio tackles an actor’s inception of his own, layering characters within his Rick Dalton character.

Brad Pitt and Mike Moh as Cliff Booth and Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

The movie has also found its share of healthy controversy to buff up public conversation. Kareem Abdul-Jabaar has even joined the backlash on Quentin Tarantino’s depiction of Bruce Lee in the film.

The Academy had quite a few contentious picks among the public last year, such as Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody and Vice. Also, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood became Quentin Tarantino’s biggest box office opening of his career, with a $41 million debut and $179 million worldwide haul so far, placing the movie in the current top 15 of 2019.

Box office numbers by no means make or break a Best Picture contender (just look at Shape of Water’s earnings when it won in 2018). However, if certainly helps Hollywood‘s already big chances at taking the Academy Awards’ top prize. For example, Damien Chazelle’s First Man tanked last year and quickly moved down and out of the Oscars’ shortlist.

Another already released 2019 film the Academy may also consider for Best Picture is Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman. The jukebox musical comes right off the heels of the surprise buzz Bohemian Rhapsody received by the end of Oscar season. Queen even opened the show in the Oscars’ first hostless show in years with a bang and took home four awards that night.

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman

This could position Rocketman well for a Best Picture nomination coming up. The Academy is known to show support for musicals, and the Elton John fantasy biopic is also a timely tale that strikes a chord about addiction and brings visibility to the LGBT community and the pitfalls of the music industry.

Plus, it’s more daring than Bohemian Rhapsody, received much better reviews and had a nice run at the box office (though comparably weak to Rhapsody’s $903 million). Taron Egerton sang… Rami Malek lip synced. But will Rocketman look like something of a sequel to Rhapsody and as a result not get the recognition it deserves? I’d say that’d be more likely if Rhapsody had won over Green Book.

Other films that could be in the running (but are more so longshots) are Avengers: Endgame, Us and The Farewell. Marvel Studios may push for an Oscar campaign for the MCU epic, as accomplished with Black Panther’s seven overall nominations (including Best Picture) and three wins.

Thanos in Avengers: Endgame

Endgame’s chances of a Best Picture nod is far less likely than the Wakanda-set feature received. Black Panther boasted social commentary and an impactful diversity shift in Hollywood. Endgame has already won highest-grossing movie ever. It’s the most blockbuster movies can get and the Academy is known to steer away from them with their picks.

Jordan Peele’s Us could snag a nomination or two, following his 2018 Original Screenplay win for Get Out, but Best Picture is less likely – the horror genre is greatly underrepresented at the Academy Awards. Lulu Wang’s The Farewell is more Oscar material. It even has a 99% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, and the indie starring Awkwafina has the power to make the kind of waves Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird achieved with five Oscar nominations (including Best Picture). However, it’s not the frontrunner Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is.

With these other options considered, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the current Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture. This is a huge deal because Quentin Tarantino has never nabbed a Best Picture win for any of his nine films, though they’ve certainly been in the running before.

His first film to be considered for the top prize was 1994’s Pulp Fiction, which lost out to Forrest Gump. 15 years later, Inglourious Basterds was his next contender for Best Picture, but The Hurt Locker was given the title. Then, Django Unchained lost out to Argo in 2012.

Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood could also receive nods in multiple other categories, such as for leads Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, Best Directing for Tarantino (which he has also never won for) and Best Original Screenplay (the category in which he won his current two Oscars).

The movie could also make waves in technical categories, such as cinematography for three-time Academy Award winner Robert Richardson. Editing, sound editing and sound mixing are two other categories Tarantino’s films have been on the shortlist for.

The Academy Awards are known to deliver unexpected shake-ups, and chances are this will happen again for 2019’s films. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the frontrunner right now, but another movie could come out of left field during Oscar season and win Best Picture.

Last year, A Star is Born was the early-ish favorite for best film of 2018, but Green Book unexpectedly won the big one. Looking ahead, fall has tons of highly-anticipated Oscar types, such as Ford v. Ferrari, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, The Goldfinch, The Irishman and Little Women. From the movies we’ve seen thus far as of August 2019, Once Upon a Time Hollywood could make history.

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